U.K. commercial broadcaster ITV has furloughed 800 staff, comprising around 15% of its local workforce.
The majority of the furloughs are staff at production arm ITV Studios, which has taken a major commercial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, losing around 80% of its business. The business has said it is “taking part in other schemes where appropriate” internationally, and has also instated a recruitment and salary freeze.
Since mid-March, ITV Studios has suspended most of its global productions as a result of the pandemic. The shutdown has resulted in a “significant impact on the demand for advertising across most advertising categories,” and in April, ads were down 42%, said ITV. Between January and April, advertising dipped by 9%.
Carolyn McCall, chief executive at ITV, said: “ITV has taken swift and decisive action to manage and mitigate the impact of COVID-19, by focusing on our people and their safety, and by continuing to reduce costs and tightly manage our cashflow and liquidity.
“We are also ensuring that we continue to inform and entertain our viewers and stay close to our advertisers. Everyone at ITV has responded extremely well to the challenges we are facing,” she continued. “We are now very focused on emerging from this crisis in a strong position, continuing to offer advertisers effective marketing opportunities and making preparations to restart productions safely.”
ITV also said it is in “the final stages” of working with others across the industry on a “return-to-production protocol,” which is currently being hammered out with the government. The broadcaster is planning a “phased approach to office re-entry” in consultation with external medical advisers once lockdown restrictions are eased.
The broadcaster made the decision earlier this week to cancel this year’s edition of “Love Island,” its biggest show and one of its primary money-makers. The reality competition normally airs from June to July, and while many alternative scenarios were planned, including a U.K. version and an August-September broadcast, ITV ultimately pulled the plug on Monday.
ITV has said it will look to reduce overhead costs by £60 million ($74 million) in 2020. The previously announced £30 million ($37 million) in cuts is “well underway,” while another £30 million ($37 million) of savings have been identified. The business will target a £100 million ($124 million) reduction in the program budget to around £1 billion ($1.2 billion).
In its first-quarter results on Wednesday, ITV reported revenue of £694 million ($863 million), down 7% year-on-year from £743 million ($923 million).
ITV Studios revenue, meanwhile, was down 11% at £342 million ($425 million), impacted “by the phasing of deliveries and restrictions on working practices due to COVID-19.”
However, broadcast revenue was up 2% at £500m ($621 million) with ITV’s total advertising up 2% year on year to £426 million ($529 million), and online revenues up 26%.
ITV’s total viewing was up 2% with strong growth in online viewing (up 75%) and simulcast viewing (up 112%) and catch-up service ITV Hub growing its reach by 40%. Meanwhile, viewing on ITV’s main channel was marginally up at 17.9%, its best quarter since 2009.
The business also reported that ITV Studios Global Distribution “is seeing good demand for library content internationally,” while the broadcaster is also getting “good growth” for free trials and subscriptions to its joint SVOD with the BBC, BritBox.
The broadcaster will restart production on daytime show “Loose Women” this week, and air the first instalment of its quarantine drama experiment, “Isolation Stories.” ITV has also resumed filming on “The Chase” in Germany and Australia, where “The Voice” is also back up and running.